It will be a moment burned into my memory, not for just what happened but what happened afterwards. It was September 26, 2010 in the Superdome. The Atlanta Falcons had battled with the New Orleans Saints for four quarters and the score was tied 24-24. The clock was winding down and Garrett Hartely was called on to make a 29 yard field goal to end the game.
Where my wife and I sit at in the Plaza Section is around the 40 yard line. I figured this would be a great line of sight for the nail in the coffin for the Falcons. Hartley let fly with his kick and we began to celebrate. However, as I looked on the field, I saw the Falcons players jumping up and down and fist-pumping like a bad episode of “Jersey Shore”. We all stared in disbelief. This was the guy who sent us to the promised land and set a record in the Superbowl for field goals. The game went to overtime and the rest was history.
As the players were slowly making their way back to the locker room, I watched Hartley walking by himself, head down just like he had lost his best friend. I felt bad for him because I knew he was beating himself up inside. That was not needed because what followed was anything but encouraging. “Get ‘em a plane ticket outta here, I’ll drive him to the airport,” shouted someone next to us. “Carney..Carney” was being chanted by some. Of course there were the standard “Boo” and “you suck!” peppered within the jeers. Tough Dome, Tough Dome.
Of course Hartley is but a few Saints player’s recently to lose their “Sainthood” or fall from grace. But is it deserving in all cases? I point out for example that Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, and Jabari Greer were being blasted during the season for their performance level dropping off. Then come to find out they had severe injuries.
Brees had a tear in his knee, Thomas had an ankle injury that required surgery, and Jabari Greer had a shoulder injury that was so severe Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams said he couldn’t lift his arm above shoulder level. Of course, there were more to follow.